The religious books used during the swearing-ins -- and the symbolism behind them

There were a number of notable swearings-i...

Posted: Jan 21, 2021 11:47 AM
Updated: Jan 21, 2021 1:30 PM

There were a number of notable swearings-in on Wednesday (though the President's oath arguably received the most attention). Aware of the attention their ceremonies would receive, the five elected officials who began their terms this week chose the religious texts they'd take their oaths on with care.

The Bibles -- and, in Sen. Jon Ossoff's case, Hebrew Scripture -- that President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and more used for their swearings-in this week reflect the values important to them: Family. Faith. Equality -- fitting themes for a presidency, and by extension, a Congress, that seeks to be defined by unity and healing.

President Joe Biden's Bible honored his family

President Biden was sworn in on a 19th-century Bible that's been in his family since the late 1800s. Biden has used the five-inch thick Bible with a Celtic cross on its cover every time he's taken an oath of office, from his first Senate swearing-in in 1973 to his second swearing-in as vice president in 2013.

His late son, Beau Biden, also used the Bible when he was sworn in as Delaware's attorney general in 2007.

Vice President Kamala Harris stacked two important Bibles

Vice President Harris was sworn in with two Bibles -- one that belonged to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice in the nation's highest court, and another owned by Regina Shelton, Harris' former neighbor in California whom she considers a 'second mother.'

Sen. Raphael Warnock honored his church

The Rev. Raphael Warnock took his oath in the Senate using a Bible gifted to him by members of Ebenezer Baptist Church when he became senior pastor, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Since 2005, Warnock has helmed the historic Atlanta church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached until his assassination. Ebenezer was the site of Rep. John Lewis' funeral in July.

Sen. Jon Ossoff used the scripture of a civil rights figure

Jon Ossoff, the first Jewish senator from Georgia, was sworn in with a Hebrew Scripture that belonged to lauded Atlanta Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Rothschild was former rabbi of the Temple, Atlanta oldest Jewish congregation -- also where Ossoff celebrated his bar mitzvah. Rothschild helmed the congregation during the early 20th century, when he denounced segregation, advocated for racial justice alongside MLK and shepherded Temple members after the building was bombed.

Sen. Alex Padilla carried a piece of his mother

The first Latino to represent California in the Senate and Harris' successor, Padilla took his oath with his mother's Bible, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

'As the proud son of immigrants from Mexico, I'm committed to working as hard as my parents did to build a better future for the next generation,' he tweeted after his swearing-in.

Past swearings-in that skipped the Bible

Members of Congress aren't bound to using Bibles to take their oaths of office. According to the Constitution, they are only bound 'by oath or affirmation' to support the Constitution and no religious text is required as a qualification for office.

Three presidents didn't use Bibles for their swearings-in: John Quincy Adams used a volume of law; Theodore Roosevelt took his oath without any books or religious texts -- he became president after his predecessor WIlliam McKinley died; and Lyndon B. Johnson used a Catholic missal belonging to President John F. Kennedy after Kennedy's assassination.

In 2007, Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, took his oath with a Quran -- a choice that incensed some members of the House at the time. In 2019, Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim women in the House of Representatives, were sworn in with their own copies of the Quran (though Tlaib considered using Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Muslim text).

Though not a lawmaker, former ambassador to Sweden and Liechtenstein Suzi LeVine made an unusual choice for her 2014 swearing-in. Instead of a physical text, she took her oath with an Amazing Kindle e-reader and a digital version of the Constitution. It may've been a wink to her career in tech -- before her ambassadorship, LeVine worked for Microsoft.

Huntsville/Redstone
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 47°
Muscle Shoals
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 45°
Huntsville/Madison
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 39°
Decatur
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 40°
Fort Payne
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 36°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 499819

Reported Deaths: 10148
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson720331403
Mobile36423741
Madison32708469
Tuscaloosa24457422
Montgomery22805523
Shelby22276219
Baldwin19935289
Lee15083161
Calhoun13963296
Morgan13801255
Etowah13419327
Marshall11460215
Houston10130264
Elmore9515190
Limestone9440139
St. Clair9057228
Cullman9000183
Lauderdale8630214
DeKalb8509175
Talladega7647165
Walker6601260
Jackson6552104
Autauga634792
Blount6256128
Colbert6010121
Coffee5261104
Dale4685107
Russell408134
Franklin400879
Covington3999107
Chilton3922104
Escambia379573
Tallapoosa3637143
Clarke344553
Chambers3434111
Dallas3428142
Pike293173
Marion288996
Lawrence286287
Winston258668
Bibb246558
Marengo245357
Geneva240670
Pickens226357
Barbour213951
Hale212969
Fayette202857
Butler201666
Henry183741
Cherokee178240
Monroe166739
Randolph165441
Washington157136
Macon147845
Crenshaw146955
Clay146254
Cleburne140341
Lamar133933
Lowndes133151
Wilcox123125
Bullock117736
Conecuh107224
Perry106427
Sumter101032
Coosa90324
Greene88932
Choctaw56123
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 783484

Reported Deaths: 11547
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby880221518
Davidson82248874
Knox46569589
Hamilton40761463
Rutherford38847388
Williamson25536204
Sumner21597320
Montgomery17563213
Out of TN1726097
Wilson16662211
Unassigned15872126
Sullivan14527275
Blount14213185
Bradley13111141
Washington12856234
Maury12284162
Sevier12182165
Putnam10671170
Madison10143232
Robertson9043121
Anderson8113158
Hamblen8097166
Greene7317145
Tipton6986103
Coffee6442115
Dickson6303106
Gibson6204141
Cumberland6141123
Carter6004155
McMinn597593
Roane595096
Bedford5848120
Loudon574566
Jefferson5729119
Lawrence558283
Monroe540691
Warren533777
Hawkins530298
Dyer5250101
Franklin477185
Fayette469373
Obion437195
Lincoln416762
Rhea416373
Cocke404696
Cheatham398744
Marshall393157
Campbell383759
Weakley380060
Giles375997
Henderson362674
Carroll349481
White340366
Hardeman339465
Macon337973
Hardin332463
Lauderdale310043
Henry301875
Marion296345
Scott289144
Wayne288830
Overton286758
Claiborne285369
McNairy269353
Hickman267941
DeKalb267651
Haywood265260
Smith258336
Grainger245246
Trousdale240122
Morgan231438
Fentress230344
Johnson217538
Chester202748
Bledsoe201410
Crockett197447
Unicoi182247
Polk179822
Cannon178930
Union174234
Grundy170530
Lake167926
Sequatchie157727
Humphreys155821
Decatur154437
Benton151339
Lewis147625
Meigs127023
Jackson125734
Stewart124825
Clay107231
Houston103932
Perry103628
Moore94716
Van Buren79820
Pickett74823
Hancock50012

Community Events